It was a time of coming together for worship and thanksgiving in Jerusalem. It was the celebration of the Passover, in remembrance of that history changing event when God delivered his people from the slavery of Egypt. And so, we read in Matthew 26 that Jesus and his disciples met in a friend’s house to celebrate the Passover (v. 18). It was a solemn occasion as Jesus endeavoured to prepare his disciples for his impending death. Then having broken the bread – symbolic of his body (v. 26) and drunk the cup of wine – symbolic of his blood (v. 28), we read that when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (v. 30)
Have you ever wondered what that hymn was?
Well, if you have been keeping up with our last few Psalms (113-115), then you may be aware that they are the first 3 of 6 Psalms that are known as the “Egyptian Hallel (meaning ‘praise’) Psalms.” These were the Psalms traditionally sung at the yearly Passover meal. Psalms 113-114 were sung at the beginning of the meal and Psalms 115—118 were sung at the end of the meal.
So, the hymn most likely sung by Jesus and his disciples would have included our Psalm for today. As you read this Psalm, consider just how relevant and encouraging it would have been to Jesus and his friends as they faced the tough challenges ahead of them.
This really is a remarkable Psalm. Kidner suggests that “there is an infectious delight and touching gratitude about this psalm, the personal tribute of a man whose prayer has found an overwhelming answer. He has come now to the temple to tell the whole assembly what has happened, and to offer God what he has vowed to Him in his extremity.” (# 29)
The first words are simply, I love! But what or who is the object of his love? It is the Lord.
Remember Deuteronomy 6:3-5 which were the words of God to the people of Israel before they entered the promised land? He said:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
The Lord spoke these words because he knew that if love for Him was top priority, then it would go well with [them]… [so] that [they] may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey! (v. 3)
And so, the psalmist proclaims:
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Love needs an object of its affection but also a reason, and the reason the psalmist expresses here is because of the goodness and kindness of God in that He always hears his voice when he calls to Him for mercy.
How then is that love revealed in the life of the psalmist? As you read the Psalm you will see a number of ways he shows his love to God. For example:
- He desires to always walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (v. 9) i.e., live a life pleasing to God.
- He has trusted in the Lord [even during times] when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” (v. 10)
- He asks: What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? (v. 12) i.e., his desire is to show gratefulness to God.
- He desires to serve [the Lord] just as my mother did.
- He wants to go public concerning his devotion to God and so proclaims: I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. (vv. 17-18)
Such is his love for God! Wilcock says: “the cry for mercy in verse 1 is likely to be simply one aspect of a lifelong practice of crying out to God in prayer, in praise of God, or a proclamation about God… the psalmist has grasped what a loving relationship with God really implies.” (# 5)
I wonder, are you able to sit quietly before God and with all your heart say to Him: I love you Lord? If so, how do you show your love for God? Is He your top priority in life and if so, do others know that He is your top priority? Consider the words of Jesus concerning this in Matthew 10:32-39).
Again, the words of Wilcock: “The Old Testament knows of no private faith which is not in some way public. And this psalm itself shows the same two faces. Without any awkwardness, a poem describing one man’s suffering and deliverance [read verses 3-11] goes public, as it were, and is recognized… as entirely appropriate for use in the courts of the house of the Lord.” (# 5)
Praise the Lord.[